George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor firstname.lastname@example.org
The University of Montana football team will begin the 2007 season ranked No. 2, according to the The Sports Network Football Championship Subdivision preseason poll. The poll, released on Tuesday, has three Big Sky Conference teams ranked in the Top 25, including the Montana State Bobcats, who are ranked No. 21. Portland State is the other Big Sky member, and the Vikings come in at No. 13. The Grizzlies received three first-place votes and 1,680 points in votes placed by media and sports information directors. The Grizzlies, who have won or shared nine straight Big Sky Conference titles and are the preseason conference favorite, finished 12-2 last season. Montana advanced to the playoffs for a record 14th straight season, losing in the semifinals to Massachusetts. Montana State, which advanced to the quarterfinals and finished 8-5, earned 332 points to check in at No. 21. The Bobcats were ranked 10th in the final 2006 poll. The Bobcats are under the direction of new head coach Rob Ash, who came from Drake University to take over for Mike Kramer, who was fired last spring after the school endured a tumultuous bout of former players in legal trouble, as well as dif- ficulties with academic issues. Portland State is also under the guidance of a new head coach, albeit a familiar name. Portland State finished 7-4 in 2006, just missing out on an atlarge bid to the playoffs. The Vikings begin the Jerry Glanville era on Sept. 1 with a nonconference road game at No. 10 McNeese State in Lake Charles, La. The Vikings received 866 points. Glanville is the charismatic former head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, and he comes to PSU from Hawaii where he coached under the legendary June Jones. Northern Arizona, earned 58 points, ninth-most among teams not in the top 25. Two-time defending FCS champion Appalachian State begins the season ranked No. 1. The Mountaineers gained 67 first-place votes and 1,680 points. Massachusetts, North Dakota State and Youngstown State rounded out the top five. Both UM and MSU are in the midst of fall camp and both teams open the season on Sept. 1. The Grizzlies will host a nonconference opponent in Southern Utah at Washington- Grizzly Stadium, while the Bobcats travel to Big 12 powerhouse Texas A&M in College Station, Texas. PSU also opens its season with a difficult road matchup at No. 10 McNeese State. In other Grizzly news, former Havre High standout Marc Mariani has been practicing mostly with the No. 1 offense so far this fall in Missoula. Mariani, who played his first fall season at UM last year, didn't catch a pass, but has seen plenty of action in practice so far this year. Mariani has also been working on punt returns along with several Griz players. Havre High is also represented in Bozeman, as former HHS lineman Mike Erickson is practicing well with the Bobcats so far this season.